Sure, Blame The Typists Rather Than The Peacock

Usually I make a point of ignoring Bill Dwyre’s columns in my daily perusal of the L.A. Times — they have largely become a tour of fogeyism (outrage over Becky Hammon and Chris Kaman deciding to play for countries not their own in the Olympics, for example) — for some reason, I was bored this afternoon and read a column with its heart in the right place: there was a lot of instantaneous match update action rather than actual writing and reporting on the Olympics, but he takes shots at the wrong people for it, managing to empathize with NBC somehow in the end.

In Chippewa Falls, Wis., Herbie hits a button and yells out, “Hey, ma, Dwight Howard just got the opening tip over Pau Gasol.” Herbie is dazzled that he got the word so fast, and the typist is equally dazzled at the speed he got it there. Neither seems to wonder whether what had arrived was worth the effort on either end.

I sat alongside a bright young reporter for the Washington Post, while the Post’s local interest, tennis star James Blake, played a semifinal match. The reporter typed after each game and hit the send button. Blake served. He won. The other guy served. He won. Tennis is like that.

Noting that it was the middle of the night back in D.C., I asked the reporter why he was doing that, since his audience, at best, could only be 35 insomniacs and 11 tennis freaks. He shrugged and said he had no idea, he just did what he was told.

It is the way of the future, we are told, as if the word “future” always connotes “better.”

This practice has to be scary for Dick Ebersol and NBC. The Olympic god that we worship nightly for two weeks, every two years — that has set the pace and raised the bar and confirmed the tone of the Olympics as one of warmth and joy and celebration of athletic excellence and good sportsmanship — may soon be riding the same horse and buggy as this columnist.

Dwyre, the reason people are looking for these things online is the fault of Ebersol and his bosses at NBC — the refusal to alter the daily schedule and tape-delay the majority of events to the Western half of the U.S., never mind delaying the U.S.-Argentina hoops semi to preserve the Today show’s 7-10 AM slot across the country, is driving even more people and reporters towards on-the-spot updates of the action as it happens.

Look, I work in television. I know why it happens this way. Affiliate stations loathe delaying local news casts, because that’s where they pull a lot of their local advertising sales, and in a down economy, that’s what you have to try and bank on — sales of ads during the morning news, along with the 5, 6, and 11.  This is why even the Winter Games in Vancouver will be tape delayed despite the city’s location in Pacific time.  The ratings NBC garnered from the Olympics have justified the practice because 8 pm is a set time where people who are not sports die-hards, who have not had the results wrecked for them, will watch — and even if they have heard who won, there is the “you gotta see it” factor added in.  We are talking about corporate owned networks; this is not the CBC or the BBC, they need to bring in the cash to justify the expense.

This doesn’t make the practice right.  The reason Dwyre is lamenting an expansion of the “type it up and post it” ethic is because the core audience for the newspaper writers abroad — sports fans — are not being served by the main television outlet, which decides to hold onto events for half a day before airing them, an absolutely inexcusable matter for a sporting event. Yes, the Olympics are chock-full of soft-focus crap to appeal to people who don’t care about sports, but they are sporting events and ought to be treated as such.  For the responsible network with the rights, this should mean live coverage to all of the country, as much as possible.

Say what you will about ESPN — slaves to stereotypical narratives regarding athletes, in bed with the leagues it broadcasts to an uncomfortable extent, gimmicky, shoddy graphical look — but at least they treat the sports they broadcast as sporting events more often than not.

(Oh, Dwyre, nice cheap shot at the bloggers too — not like I haven’t read that one before. Y’know, the vast majority of us happen to pay rent to someone not a blood relation.)

Beijing: Olympics’ instant gratification has a cost [Los Angeles Times]
Beijing Olympics up 8% over Athens [Sports Media Watch]

(P.S. Yeah, that’s Katie Hoff, Michael Phelps, and Natalie Coughlin at some post-event function in China. I just thought the photo was funny.)

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This Could Only Come From Someone Who Doesn’t Watch The Games.

If you are a college football fan, and received a major kick out of the upsets and BCS confusion that’s going on this year (except when your team is involved), well, Bill Plaschke doesn’t quite agree with you. The L.A. Times columnist whines and moans for the teams to hate that are playing for the championship; that South Florida vs. Rutgers being the game of the week on Thursday: “It may be fair, it may even be occasionally fun, but it’s just not right.” Oh, if only those upstart programs wouldn’t be so damn good! Then, we could root for the entrenched, powerful programs, and everything would be right with the world!

I miss great teams to hate. I miss creaky characters to love. I miss familiar fight songs and enduring stadiums and Bevo.

This college football season, I really miss college football.

And I’m not alone.

“Parity in college football is great for the coaches and players, but you have to look at the reality of it,” said Bob Davie, former Notre Dame coach and current ESPN broadcaster. “From a television and fan perspective, you need the traditional powers to be strong.”

College football needs USC and Notre Dame to be good like baseball needs the New York Yankees to be good.

College football needs Alabama and Penn State to be strong like basketball needs the Lakers to be strong.

Does college football really need third-ranked Boston College to play for a national title after a schedule that includes Army, Massachusetts and Bowling Green?

Does college football really need Steve Spurrier throwing down his visor for a school known as the Gamecocks?

And can’t college football just ship eighth-ranked Kentucky to Dick Vitale?

“The new kids on the block are nice, but they will always be fighting credibility,” Davie said. “They will always be met with high doses of skepticism.”

College football needs Goliaths, it needs George Gipps — it doesn’t need teams that make us feel like we’ve been gypped.

You know you’ve got a loser of an argument when your main quotes for support are Bob Davie and Beano Cook.

Why not just hand the fucking BCS trophy to whatever powerful team happens to come out of the SEC or Pac-10, regardless of how many losses they have? Again, there has been really nothing better than this complete clusterfuck that all the upsets have caused this year. It only fuels the annual debate that is college football, where if you have more than one loss, you’re not winning the championship, and it makes more teams competitive, where nothing can be taken for granted on any given Saturday. Yes, there are strong teams that will win much more often than they lose, but the potential of losing, that’s what keeps you watching and makes the teams that stay alive even more exciting.

I want to see if South Florida will pull it off. I don’t think they can, but then I didn’t think they could beat Auburn and West Virginia. Shows me what I know. Now, I get to sit back and enjoy the next few Saturdays, as more teams fall. If you believe it’s not college football unless USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas or some other traditional power is in the title hunt, then you don’t like college football a hell of a lot, do you? How someone is able to say that this season is “not college football” while watching a program that didn’t exist 12 years ago compete for a national title shot is beyond my comprehension.

And Piscataway isn’t that hard to say, Bill — say it with me: “Pis-cat-uh-way.” Not difficult.

This Saga Will Drive Anyone To Drinking.

After the last couple days of Kobe talk, Jerry Buss would understandably have needed a drink or two to chill out and forget about the ish Kobe Bryant was talking. Problem is, he got behind the wheel for a short distance afterwards with a 23-year-old woman in his company, and got busted in an otherwise uneventful DUI arrest in Carlsbad, CA. To add more to Dr. Buss’ displeasure, Kobe is now telling the L.A. Times’ J.A. Adande and Mike Bresnahan that he’s unhappy again, and that the effort to put the Shaq trade after the 2004 season on him is silly and unwarranted? That’s contrary to popular belief:

“The fact of the matter is that many people don’t know what really went down when I was approaching free agency because I have stayed quiet about it this whole time,” Bryant wrote on kb24.com. “The real facts are that Dr. Buss requested a meeting with me during the ’04 season long before I opted out of my contract, and he told me he had already decided to not extend Shaq, as he was concerned about Shaq’s age, fitness and contract demands. Dr. Buss made it clear that his decision was final, his mind was made up and no matter what I decided to do with free agency he was still going to move Shaq.

“I’ve heard many people say ‘the Lakers are letting Kobe take the bullet for the Shaq trade’ but I always just let that go. But now when I hear ‘Lakers insider’ it makes me feel so unsupported that a Lakers ‘insider’ is tryin’ to spin Dr. Buss’ decision about Shaq on me.”

To be fair, Kobe was a free agent, and the Lakers would do just about anything to keep him — not resign the coach that preferred O’Neal and get rid of a franchise post player. But before I get ready to pin this all on Kobe (I will defend his skills to the death, but I think he’s being a bit petulant here), we better check in: what does Shaq think? Fortunately, he spoke to Stephen A. Smith about it, and here’s the money point from SAS’ latest Philadelphia Inquirer column:

“I believe Kobe 100 percent,” said O’Neal, reached yesterday while in Los Angeles on business. “Absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind Kobe is telling the truth. I believe him a thousand percent. I would have respected Dr. Buss more as a man if he would have told me that himself, because I know he said it. But he didn’t [tell me]. He never said a damn word to me.”

Looks like Dr. Buss has a bigger problem on his hands than he thought — you BS your franchise player about building a championship team, you’re not holding up your end of the deal. Do we laud Kobe for holding his bosses to the fire or say he should shut up and deal? If he was promised a competitive team, then his strategy to get Laker fans behind him and on the management is a good one.

The New Adventures Of New Christine.

Unusual little story in the L.A. Times sports section today, and the big boys are already all over it, but it’s still remarkable enough to expound upon: sportswriter Mike Penner is no more — Christine Daniels will be taking his place. Usually, this would be considered part of a severance package, with the recent cuts the Tribune Co. has made to the paper (another 150 jobs axed this week), but not this time. Penner is a transsexual, and will become Christine fairly soon.

I can’t really cut text from it this time, and won’t, because the whole thing is worth reading, but of course, it raises the usual questions about sports, the macho context behind them, and whether Christine will be able to do the job that Mike did based on those assumptions. I surmise the rules are different for sportswriters — it will be considered odd rather than an affront to those she will cover because Daniels is a journalist. The odds are that people and teams Penner has covered are already kind of used to it, because pre-op transsexuals are told to go around as the gender they will switch to for a year before the surgery.

Honestly, I wish Mike the best of luck in becoming Christine — that is a painful process to have to deal with over decades and then to get ready for a new life.